Concern is growing over gas- and oil-well drilling near homes in Northeast Ohio. State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chester, met last week with members of the Northeast Ohio Gas Accountability Project to discuss what can be done to change Ohio law.

Kari Matsko, a member of the accountability project, said they want to see changes in Ohio law that took away control by local governments over drilling in their communities.

Mr. Grendell said he, members of the gas-accountability group and local officials will meet with state Sen. Thomas Niehaus, R-New Richmond, who sponsored Ohio House Bill 278, which took away local control. They have to gain his support before they can seek changes in the law, he said. "Every mayor and township trustee has to meet with him," he said.

"If we don't bring him in, it will be difficult to get legislative changes," Mr. Grendell said.

"He's open to it but needs to be convinced these changes are needed for safety. And he has walked the site of the Ohio Valley Energy gas well in Bainbridge," he said. Methane gas leaked from the well on English Drive last December and flowed into the aquifer and into home water wells, causing one explosion and contaminating dozens of other wells.

Local governments should have the right to control drilling in residential areas, Mr. Grendell said. However, he added, "This is going to be an uphill battle. We're going to need a grassroots effort."

Communities should at least have buffering regulations, and companies should have liability for well damages, he said. "I want bonds over $1 million," Mr. Grendell said.

"I want a time regulation for getting out there to inspect," he said of Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspections of drilling sites and operations. "And I want independent review where a licensed authority inspects and enforces the regulations."

If it isn't done right, ODNR is the judge and jury," Mr. Grendell said. "I'd like to get an independent inspector."

Part of the problem is that about 80 percent of the state is not affected by drilling, he said. Drilling is taking place primarily in urban areas of Northeast Ohio.

Some property owners are forced into mandatory pooling of their properties for well sites to make the mandatory 20 acres, Mr. Grendell said.

"This isn't a fix overnight. It's a long, slow effort. And I need more help to move it in the right direction," he said.

"I don't think ODNR is handling it to my satisfaction. Operations should be to protect the residents, and, if it means holding the companies accountable, so be it," he said.

"I don't think ODNR has shown that commitment with Bainbridge, and they have not been as forceable as I would like to see. My goal is protecting people of Bainbridge, and ODNR is far too removed to be held accountable for drilling in residential areas," Mr. Grendell said.

"In House Bill 278, they see their job as fostering economic development of the gas industry. I think they should be looking at protecting residents."

Proposals for changes in the law will be introduced in October in the Ohio Legislature, he said.

Ms. Matsko said the group is working with Mr. Grendell on the public health and safety issues and disclosure to residents about nearby drilling.

The group also is seeking repeal of the mandatory pooling rule, she said. "It's really unconstitutional."

The group attended a hearing in Columbus last week involving an objection to mandatory pooling in Broadview Heights.

Required setback distances from homes also should be increased so there is less of a risk and neighbors won't be exposed, Ms. Matsko said.

There was a methane gas fire at a well in Ashtabula County recently.

"People didn't know what was going on," Ms. Matsko said. "They should be apprised of such situations."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.